It was close throughout the entire game, but you could definitely sense the hunger from Villanova. They needed a win to help secure an NCAA Tourney berth. Pitt needed the win to help stay on track for a potential double bye in the Big East Tournament next week. Two cross-state rivals playing for the final time as conference rivals in a very tightly officiated and physical game. And in the end, it came down to overtime.
Talib Zanna scored 14 points and grabbed 19 boards, James Robinson scored 14, including 2 huge 3-pointers, one in regulation to tie the game and another in overtime to seal the win, and Pitt went a perfect 7-7 from the line in overtime as the Panthers rallied past Villanova at the Pete to win 73-64 on Senior Day for Dante Taylor and Tray Woodall. The win puts Pittsburgh at 11-6 in the Big East, a half game ahead of Notre Dame and Syracuse for the final double bye in the Big East Tournament.
I'm not sure how much missing Steven Adams affected Pitt throughout the game, but you could sense Pitt's reluctance to get the ball inside. Not that Taylor and Zanna can't suddenly have an effective scoring night, because they're definitely capable of it, as we saw from Zanna today. But Adams, being a 7-footer, adds another dimension on both sides. It's hard to account for someone of that size if you're the other team. I feel confident saying that Pitt would have won in regulation today had Adams been in the game. But with the upcoming postseason, Pitt didn't need to risk potentially losing Adams for a game that really didn't mean much for the Panthers. And in the end, they didn't need him.
Before everyone starts, let me remind you of how much Pitt having a double bye has helped the Panthers in the Big East Tournament.
That is Pitt's record in the Big East Tournament when they've had the double bye. That doesn't mean that Jamie Dixon wouldn't mind having it, but Pitt hasn't had a whole lot of success with it, something many other Big East coaches have pointed out. Personally, I don't really care whether Pitt ultimately gets the double bye, because I haven't seen them do much with it.
Woodall, in his final game at home, had a double-double himself, scoring 13 points while dishing out 11 assists. He wasn't at his best shooting the ball - only 4-11 from the floor. But he did what Pitt needed him to do and that's find his teammates for easy buckets. Taylor, often criticized in his earlier years, scored 7 points and grabbed 6 boards in his final game, ending his career at the Pete on a solid note.
But on this Senior Day, it was the freshman Robinson who came up huge. Similar to the game against Connecticut, where he scored a big 3 pointer to help Pitt win, Robinson scored 2 big shots from deep, not something he is particularly strong at, but two shots that should give him confidence to take a few more in Pitt's upcoming games. He has the ability to score when Pitt needs him to. Now we just need him to do so more frequently.
Similarly, Zanna should also get a huge confidence boost after his monster performance today. Since non-conference play, Zanna has struggled offensively and it was beginning to show in his playing minutes. But he came up big for the Panthers and this is the kind of performance Pitt needed out of him as they get ready for the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.
It's a big win and for the final time, Pitt walks off the Pete floor with a Big East win. Pitt travels to Chicago for their final Big East regular season game against DePaul on Saturday at 2 P.M.